The Form and Function of Comment Systems

If you’re a big news media site or an up-and-coming blog, at some point you are going to sit down and really consider what type of comment system is best for your site.

For most people, this means considering all the third party commenting systems out there. Of the main contenders to consider are the following:

Each of these systems has a variety of features, advantages, and problems. Before even looking into the features of each commenting system, it’s important to consider the value of comments to your blog, what you want out of a commenting system, and which functions would be most useful.

Do you want to have a high volume of comments, even if they aren’t of the highest quality, relevance, or decency? Do you want fewer comments that are more civil, on topic, and less offensive? How much time would you devote to moderating comments?

With these questions in mind, you will come across the following types of features and decisions to be made about the comment systems for your site.

The word 'reputation' over the entrance to a building

Public, Reputation-Driven Comments

Most of the comment systems listed above offer some sort of public, reputation-driven system.

If your site receives plenty of flame comments, trolling, pointless bickering, or all of the above, integrating your comments into a public infrastructure will definitely help discourage those pointless types of comments.

However, do be aware that these types of comment systems can discourage commentators for a number of reasons:

  • You have to log into or create some form of social media account
  • These comments don’t allow people to post anonymously
  • Comments link back to some sort of profile or comment history

For Facebook Comments especially (where your comments are linked to your profile with your actual name), this can really scare away comments. While comments will be much more civil, they can also be overly polite with people tiptoeing around each other and being less inclined to gridlock into an intense, passionate discourse.

An invisible person in shirth and jacket holding a pair of sunglasses

Anonymous Comments

Even though most new comment systems have some type of reputation/social integration, many comment systems will also allow visitors to post comments anonymously (with the obvious exception being Facebook).

Allowing anonymous comments will result in a higher volume of comments, but with this higher volume usually comes an extreme dip in comment quality. If your site covers particularly controversial topics, the level of comments can drop as low as death threats.

Moderating Comments

One decent solution to keeping the quality of comments high, particularly if you are allowing anonymous comments, is to moderate the comments yourself.

Just about all of these commenting systems give you the ability to delete any comments that are obscene, spam, or just completely thoughtless or irrelevant.

Of course, you don’t want to spend more time moderating than you do actually writing content for your site. Luckily, some systems give you more automated moderation controls such as blacklists and whitelists which can really ease the moderation process.

Twitter logo in blue

Tweets As Comments

One of the most annoying features I’ve ever seen on a third party commenting system is the one that integrates tweets into the comments section.

While it can be interesting for the blogger or writer to see what people are saying about their article in tweets, this feature really offers nothing to the readers except for a bunch of useless comments that they have to wade through.

This is because most tweets about a post just say “This is a summary of an article (and here’s the link) #somethingrelevantorfunny.” Not the best contribution to a comments section.

Quick Rundown

Each commenting system has a lot of similarities, and many features are subject to change and add by the month.

This makes weighing pros and cons can be difficult, especially since bugs change just about as quickly as features, but I will provide a couple features that define each comment system:

LiveFyre

  • Pros — Has a great interface, reputation points/like system, and reply system making comments very social and conversational.
  • Cons — Can’t post comments as a “guest” or “anonymous” which might be too big of a barrier of entry for some commenters.

IntenseDebate

  • Pros — Highly customizable, supports valuable add-ons such as Comment-Luv, and is made by the same company that owns WordPress.
  • Cons — Doesn’t work across all universal browsers (IE9 and Opera have glitches), and replies are hidden until you click to expand.

Disqus

  • Pros — Users can post anonymously as “guests” and supports many other login credentials, allows you to customize the look with CSS, and the system is very popular and well-recognized.
  • Cons — You can’t add your own content to the comment layout (such as a Rules section), and people have reported lost comments after switching from WordPress native comments.

Facebook Comments

  • Pros — The most popular social network in the world makes logging in to comment easy, and adds some accountability to commenting since Facebook profiles are attached to comments.
  • Cons — Discussions might be a little too polite, and many people will not be inclined to post due to the ties to your public profile.

community of lego people

Conclusion

Getting the right commenting system for your blog is often a push and pull situation.

It’s nice to have a democratic setting in which anyone can contribute their thoughts and viewpoints to your content, but you don’t want your comments to be flooded with thoughtless or rude garbage.

And of course you can clean up your comments area with some hefty moderation, but wouldn’t this energy be better spent creating content for your site?

Ultimately, you just have to decide how important comments are to your posts and how much you’d like them to change.

This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for best online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99 @gmail.com. 

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

7 comments

    • Cory I don’t use any of the comment systems mentioned here. I use the comments that come with WordPress. The systems aren’t WordPress specific, though they can be used with WordPress. I simply choose to use the default system.

  1. On my blog I use the standard WordPress comments system with the Gravatar plugin plus an additional option for Facebook comments. I’m wary of using third party comment systems like Livefyre or Disqus – I’d rather have full control over my site’s commenting interface.

    • I feel the same way Alex, which is why I’m using the standard WordPress comments too. I do seem some advantages in using the 3rd party comment systems though. If I’m not mistaken Intense Debate will let you export all comments and place them back in the regular WordPress system so you can still maintain the control you want.

      For now though I’m happy using the standard WP system.

  2. yiya, nice article. well input though I can’t install blog comments plugin, but I inspired to install WordPress comments plugin. I actually found it brilliant tool for conversation with visitors. Hope it would be connects me better with huge traffic. thanks!

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